committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs








By Robert Boyt C. Howell



Impressions made by baptism; lessons it teaches; contrast; infant baptism turns them all aside.

BAPTISM, like all the other ordinances of religion, was designed to make a deep and salutary impression upon the heart, both of those who receive it, and those who witness its administration. It teaches important lessons, and holds up perpetually before the mind the most glorious truths of the gospel. But the sprinkling of a baby turns them all aside, and destroys every salutary result.

Baptism is an ordinance of singular dignity, and impressiveness, especially when considered in its various bearings, and relations. Give it, if you please, a moment?s thought. An intelligent and humble believer stands before you. He has been instructed in the gospel; he has embraced its truths; and deeply penitent under a sense of his guilt and condemnation, he has given himself to Christ, on whom by divine grace he has been enabled to rest his hopes, and confidence. He cherishes a holy assurance of pardon and acceptance. "Justified by faith, he has peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." His soul exults with gratitude and joy. He is "a new creature." His will, his affections, his inclinations, his desires, his purposes, are all changed. He now presents himself, as is his privilege, and his duty, and in accordance with all his desires, that he may confess Christ before men, and be united with his people. With indescribable emotion he approaches the ordinance in which this confession is divinely appointed to be made. He is to be baptized but once in his life. He desires, therefore, to cherish in that hour especially, the spirit of ardent devotion, and full consecration, which so important a service demands. Christ died for his sins, was buffed, and rose again for his justification. He is now dead to sin, and according to his commandment, is about to be buried with Christ by baptism into death, and like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so he also, is to arise to walk in newness of life. How unspeakably solemn is that moment! With what fervor he renounces the world, the flesh, and the devil! How earnestly he scrutinizes his own heart, and reviews the reasons of the hope by which he is animated! How thrilling his vows to be the Lord?s; to devote himself to the glory of him "who hath called him out of darkness into his marvelous light!" How fervent his prayers for the divine grace and blessing! The act is performed. He retires. The scenes of that hour are indelibly engraven upon his soul. They can never be erased. The salutary practical results are as lasting as his earthly existence.

With this scene compare that of the sprinkling of a child. The little innocent, unconscious of all that is passing, is brought forward, bedizened; possibly, with ribbons and lace. Some forms are recited. Questions and answers are read from books. The wet finger of the minister is laid upon the forehead of the child, Startled by the nervous shock, it perhaps shrieks convulsively, and is hurried away from the altar! The spectacle is over. What have you looked upon? A lamentable desecration of an ordinance of Jesus Christ! Who is benefited? Who is impressed? Who is taught? And this is called baptism!

The baptism instituted by Jesus Christ teaches us, I have said, important lessons. It holds up to our view incessantly, Jesus as our only Savior; it instructs us that he gave his life for our life, and that the great acts by which we are redeemed, were his death, burial, and resurrection. This redemption is made ours personally, by the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration. We are one with Christ by faith. For this reason in Christ?s death for sin, we died; in his burial, we were buried; in his resurrection, we were raised up; and in his victory we are glorious conquerors. All this we are regarded by the Father as having done, not in ourselves, but in Christ, since what he as our representative did for us, is justly regarded as having been done by us. For Christ?s sake, therefore, he pardons, sanctifies, adopts, and crowns us with eternal salvation. In this form occurred the acts of our redemption; this is the form of our spiritual change, a death to sin, a burial to the world, and a resurrection to a new life; and this, as the apostles repeatedly declare, is therefore the form of our baptism. "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also we are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God who hath raised him from the dead." In baptism, therefore, those great truths are ever before the mind that constitute the sum of the gospel. How, then, can a Baptist ever become a Unitarian, a Universalist, a legalist, or a cold formalist? As a Baptist he never can. Our very baptism teaches us salvation by grace, through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. But what does infant baptism teach? Nothing, that is salutary. Absolutely nothing.

A believer makes in his baptism a solemn profession of his faith. He has avowed his belief in the doctrine of the Trinity, in whose name that ordinance was administered; in "the freeness of the Father?s love, the all-sufficient atonement of the Son, and the regenerating and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit;" and he has recognized his obligations, in all things according to the divine word, to walk with the people of God, in newness of life. Nor can he ever renounce these tenets without at the same time, renouncing his baptism. His baptism also implants all the strongest motives to holy living, since it was his own voluntary act, in which he declared himself dead to sin, buried to the world, and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord. Such a separation was then pledged between him and sinful things, as is found between the dead and the living. Even the common desire to maintain consistency of character, bears in favor of the Christian life, since he has been publicly and solemnly baptized. Such are his professions, and declarations, and their practical influence, the benefit of all which, in infant baptism is totally lost. The child professes nothing, promises nothing, feels nothing.

Such is baptism as to the impression it was designed to make upon those who receive it, in the case of a believer contrasted with that of an infant. When you witness the baptism of a believer, in the form instituted by Jesus Christ, your heart is moved. There is an imposing solemnity in the whole scene. You cannot restrain your tears. Many a sinner has by this means been convicted of sin, and afterwards given himself to Christ.: But who ever was convicted of sin, or led to Christ, by witnessing the sprinkling of an infant? Who ever, under such circumstances, felt the solemn grandeur of religion? Infant baptism prevents the salutary impression upon the minds of those who witness the ordinance, which was designed to be made by baptism.

But infant sprinkling seeks to supplant the baptism of believers altogether, and does so, as far as it prevails. Should it universally prevail, it would thus banish from the world some of the best influences connected with the religion of Christ. The salutary practical impression made by baptism upon the minds of both those who receive the ordinance, and those who witness its administration, is of the utmost importance. Infant baptism prevents this impression. Therefore infant baptism is a great evil.

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